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frequently in the contests among princes, and to engage as principals or auxiliaries in every war kindled in Europe, this veneration for their sacred character began to abate; and striking instances will occur in the following history of its being almost totally extinct.
Of all the Italian powers, the republic of Venice, next to the papal see, was most connected with the rest of Europe. The rise of that commonwealth, during the inroads of the Huns in the fifth century; the singular situation of its capital in the small isles of the Adriatic gult; and the more singular form of its civil constitution, are generally known. If we view the Venetian government as calculated for the order of nobles alone, its institutions may be pronounced excellent; the deliberative, legislative, and executive powers, are so admirably distributed and adjusted, that it must be regarded as a perfect model of political wisdom. But if we consider it as formed for a numerous body of people subject to its jurisdiction, it will appear a rigid and partial aristocracy, which lodges a'l power in the hands of a few members of the community, while it degrades and oppresses the rest.
The spirit of government in a commonwealth of this species, was, of course, timid and jealous. The Venetian nobles distrusted their own subjects, and were afraid of allowing them the use of arms. They encouraged among them the arts of industry and commerce ; they employed them in manufactures and in navigation, but rever admitted them into the troops, which the state kept in its pay. The military force of the republic consisted entirely of foreign mercenaries. The command of these was never trusted to noble Venetians, lest they should acquire such influence over the army, as might endanger the public liberty; or become accustomed to the exercise of such power, as would make them unwilling to return to the condition of private citizens. A soldier of fortune was placed at the head of the armies of the commonwealth ; and to obtain that honour, was the great object of the Italian Condottieri, or leaders of bands, who in the biteenth and sixteenth centuries, made a trade of war, and raised and hired out soldiers to different states. But the same suspicious policy, which induced the Venetians to e:nploy these adventurers, prevented their placing entire confidence in them. Two noblemen, appointed by the senate, accompanied their army, when it took the field, with the appellation of Proseditori, and, like the field-deputies of the Dutch republic in latter times, obrerved all the motions of the general, and checked and controlled him in all his operations.
A commonwealth with such civil and military institutions, was not formed to make conquests. While its subjects were disarmed, and its pobles excluded from military command, it carried on its warlike enterprises with great disadvantage. This ought to have taught the Venetians to rest satisfied with inaking sell-preservation and the enjoyment of domestic security, the objects of their policy. But republics are apt to be seduced by the spirit of ambition, as well as kings. When the Venetians so far forgot the interior defects in their government as to aim at extensive croquests, the fatal blow, which they received in the war excited by the league of Cambray, convinced them of the imprudence and danger of making violent efforts, in opposition to the genius and tendency of their constitution.
ents from the most violent actions to which the lust of power prompts ambitious princre. Tragh his clerky authorized the war, yet Anne of Bretagne, his queen, entertained scruples with regard to the lawfulness of it. The king himself, from some superstition of the same kind, carried
faltly, and, upon every fresh advantage, renewed his propositions of peace. Mezeray, Bist. & France, fol. edit. 163, tom. 1.832 I shall produce another proof of this reverence for the papal Cater sti more striking. Guicciardini, the most sagacious, perhaps, of all inodern historians, e boldent in painting the vices and ambition of the popes, represents the death of Migliau, a
tua, who was killed during the siege of Naples, as a punishment inflicted on him by Neares, on account of his having opposed the setting of Clement VII. at liberty Guic. Historia
Cenev. 1645. vol. 1. lib. 18 P. 407.
It is not, however, by its military, but by its naval and commercial power, that the importance of the Venetian commonwealth must be estimated. The latter constituted the real force and nerves of the state. The jealousy of governinent did not exterid to this department. Nothing was apprehended from this, quarter, that could prove formidable to liberty. The senate encouraged the nobles to trade, and to serve on board the fleet. They became merchants and admirals. They increased the wealth of their country by their industry. They added to its dominions, by the valour with which they conducted its naval armaments.
Commerce was an inexhaustible source of opulence to the Venetians. All the nations in Europe depended upon them, not only for the commodities of the East, but for various manufactures fabricated by them alone, or finished with a dexterity and elegance unknown in other countries. From this extensive commerce, the state derived such immense supplies, as concealed those vices in its constitution which I have mentioned; and enabled it to keep on foot such armies, as were not only an overmatch for the force which any of its neighbours could bring into the field, but were sufficient to contend, for some time, with the powerful monarchs beyond the Alps. During its struggles with the princes united against it by the league of Cambray, the republic levied sums which, even in the present age, would be deemed considerable; and while the king of France paid the exorbitant interest which I have mentioned for the money advanced to him, and the emperor, eager to borrow, but destitute of credit, was known by the name of Maximilian the Moneyless, the Venetians raised whatever sums they pleased, at the moderate premium of five in the hundred.*
The constitution of Florence was perfectly the reverse of the Verietian. It partook as much of democratical turbulence and licentiousness, as the other of aristocratical rigour. Florence, however, was a commereial, not a military democracy. The nature of its institutions was favourable to commerce, and the genius of the people was turned towards it. The vast wealth which the family of Medici had acquired by trade, together with the magnificence, the generosity, and the virtue of the first Cosmo, gave him such an ascendant over the affections as well as the councils of his countrymen, that though the forms of popular government were preserved, though the various departments of administration were filled by magistrates distinguished by the ancient names, and elected in the usual manner, he was in reality the head of the commonwealth ; and in the station of a private citizen, he possessed supreme authority. Cosmo transmitted a considerable degree of this power to his descendants; and during the greater part of the fifteenth century, the political state of Florence was extremely singular. The appearance of republican government subsisted, the people were passionately attached to it, and on some occasions contended warmly for their privileges, and yet they permitted a single family to assume the direction of their affairs, almost as absolutely as if it had been formerly invested with sovereign power. The jealousy of the Medici concurred with the commercial spirit of the Florentines, in putting the military force of the republic upon the same footing with that of the other Italian states. The troops, which the Florentines employed in their wars, consisted almost entirely of mercenary soldiers, furnished by the Condottier: or leaders of bands, whom they took into their pay.
In the kingdom of Naples, to which the sovereignty of the island of Sicily was annexed, the feudal government were established in the same form, and with the same defects, as in the other nations of Europe. The frequent and violent revolutions which happened in that monarchy had considerably increased these defects, and rendered them more intolerable.
* Hist. de la Ligue fait a Cambray, par M. l'Abbe du Bos lib. v. Sandi Storia Civil Veneziana, Ib. viji. c. 16. p. 891, &c.
The succession to the crown of Naples had been so often interrupted or altered, and so many princes of foreign blood bad, at different periods, obtained possession of the throne, that the Neapolitan nobility had lost, in a great measure, that attachment to the family of their sovereigns, as well as that reverence for their persons, which, in other feudal kingdoms, contributed to set some bounds to the encroachments of the barons upon the royal prerogative and power. At the same time, the different pretenders to the crown, being obliged to court the barons who adhered to them, and on whose support they depended for the success of their claims, they augmented their privileges by liberal concessions, and connived at their boldest usurpations. Even when seated on the throne, it was dangerous for a prince, who held his sceptre by a disputed title, to venture on any step towards extending his own power, or circumscribing that of the nobles.
From all these causes, the kingdom of Naples was the most turbulent of any in Europe, and the authority of its monarchs the least extensive. Though Ferdinand I. who began his reign in the year 1468, attempted to break the power of the aristocracy; though his son Alphonso, that he might crush it at once by cutting off the leaders of greatest reputation and influence among the Neapolitan barons, ventured to commit one of the most perfidious and cruel actions recorded in history (A. D. 1487]; the order of nobles was nevertheless more exasperated than humbled by their measures.* The resentment which these outrages excited was so violent, and the power of the malecontent nobles was still so formidable, that to these may be ascribed, in a great degree, the ease and rapidity with which Charles VIII. conquered the kingdom nt Naples.
The event that gave rise to the violent contests concerning the succession to the crown of Naples and Sicily, which brought so many calamities upon these kingdoms, happened in the thirteenth century (A. D. 1254). Upon the death of the Emperor Frederick II, Manfred, his natural son, aspiring to the Neapolitan throne, murdered his brother the emperor Conrad (if we may believe contemporary historians, and by that crime obtained possession of it. The popes, from their implacable enmity to the house of Suabia, not only refused to recognise Manfred's title, but endeavoured to excite against him some rival capable of wresting the sceptre out of his hand. Charles, count of Anjou, the brother of St. Louis king of France, undertook this; and he received from the popes the investiture of the kingdom of Naples and Sicily as a fief held of the holy see. The count of Anjou's efforts were crowned with success; Manfred lell in battle ; and he took possession of the vacant throne. But soon after, Charles sullied the glory which he had acquired, by the injustice and cruelty with which he put to death, by the hands of the executioner, Conradin, the last prince of The house of Suabia, and the rightful heir of the Neapolitan crown. That gallant young prince asserted his title, to the last, with a courage worthy of a better fate. On the scaffold, he declared Peter, at that time prince, and soon after king of Aragon, who had married Manfred's only daughter, his beir; and throwing his glove among the people, he entreated that it might be carried to Peter, as the symbol by which he conveyed all bis rights to him. The desire of avenging the insult offered to royalty, by the death of Conradin, concurred with his own ambition, in prompting Peter to take arms in support of the title which be bad acquired. From that period, during almost two centuries, the houses of Aragon and Anjou contended for the crown of Naples. Amidst a succession of revolutions more rapid, as well as of crimes more atrocious, than what occur in the history of almost any other kingdom, monarchs, sometimes of the Aragonese line, and sometimes of the Angevin, were seated on the throne. At
length the princes of the house of Aragon (A. D. 1434] obtained such firm possession of this long disputed inheritance, that they transmitted it quietly to a bastard branch of their family.*
The race of the Angevin kings, however, was not extinct, nor had they relinquished their title to the Neapolitan crown. The count of Maine and Provence, the heir of this family, conveyed all his rights and pretensions to Louis XI. and to his successors (A. D. 1494). Charles VIII., as I have already related, crossed the Alps at the head of a powerful army, in order to prosecute his claim with a degree of vigour far superior to that which the princes from whom he derived it had been capable of exerting. The rapid progress of his arms in Italy, as well as the short time during which he enjoyed the fruits of his success, have already been mentioned, and are well known. Frederick, the heir of the illegitimate branch of the Aragonese family, soon recovered the throne of which Charles bad dispossessed him. Louis XII. and Ferdinand of Aragon united against this prince, whom both, though for different reasons, considered as a usurper, and agreed to divide his dominions between them [A. D, 1501). Frederick, 'inable to resist the combined monarchs, each of whom was far his superior in power, resigned bis sceptre. Louis and Ferdinand, though they had concurred in making the conquest, differed about the division of it; and from allies became enemies. But Gonsalvo de Cordova, partly by the exer tion of such military talents as gave him a just title to the appellation of the Great Captain, which the Spanish historians have bestowed upon him; and partly by such shameless and frequent violations of the most solemn engagements, as leave an indelible stain on his memory; stripped the French of all that they possessed in the Neapolitan dominions, and secured the peaceable possession of them to his master. These, together with bis other kingdoms, Ferdinand transmitted to his grandson Charles V. whose right to possess them, if not altogether uncontrovertible, seems, at least, to be as well founded, as that which the kings of France set up in opposition to it.
There is nothing in the political constitution or interior government of the dutchy of Milan, so remarkable, as to require a particular explanation. But as the right of succession to that fertile province was the cause or the pretext of almost all the wars carried on in Italy during the reign of Charles V. it is necessary to trace these disputes to their source, and to inquire into the pretensions of the various competitors.
During the long and fierce contests excited in Italy by the violence of the Guelf and Ghibelline factions, the family of Visconti rose to great emi. nence among their fellow-citizens of Milan. As the Visconti had adhered uniformly to the Ghibelline or Imperial interest, they, by way of recompense, received, from one emperor, the dignity of perpetual vicars of the empire in Italyi [A. D. 1354): they were created, by another, dukes of Milan [A. D. 1395); and, together with that title, the possession of the city and its territories was bestowed upon them as an hereditary fief. John, king of France, among other expedients for raising money, which the calamities of his reign obliged hiin to employ, condescended to give one of his daughters in marriage to John Galeazzo Visconti, the first duke of Milan, from whom he bad received considerable sums. Valentine Visconti, one of the children of this marriage, married her cousin, Louis, duke of Orleans, the only brother of Charles VI. In their marriage-contract, which the Pope confirmed, it was stipulated that, upon failure of beirs male in the family of Visconti, the dutchy of Milan should descend to the posterity of Valentine and the duke of Orleans. That event took place. In the year
• Giannone, book xxvi. ch. 2. Droits des Rois de France au Royaume de Sicile. Mem. de Comin. Edit, de Fresnoy, tom. iv. part iv. p. 5.
Petrarch. epist. ap. Struv. Corp. I. 625 Lebnit. Cod. Jur Gent. Diplom. vol. 1. 257.
1447, Philip Maria, the last prince of the ducal family of Visconti, died. Various competitors claimed the succession. Charles, duke of Orleans, pleaded his right to it, founded on the marriage contract of his mother Valentine Visconti. Alfonso king of Naples claimed it in consequence of a will made by Philip Maria in his favour. The emperor contended that, upon the extinction of male issue in the family of Visconti, the fief returned to the superior lord, and ought to be re-annexed to the Empire. - The peo ple of Milan, smitten with the love of liberty which in that age prevailed among the Italian states, declared against the dominion of any master, and established a republican form of government.
But during the struggle among so many competitors, the prize for which they contended was seized by one from whom none of them apprehended any danger. Francis Sforza, the natural son of Jacomuzzo Sforza, whom his courage and abilities had elevated from the rank of a peasant to be one of the most eminent and powerful of the Italian Condottieri, having succeeded his father in the command of the adventurers who followed his standard, had married a natural daughter of the last duke of Milan. Upon this shadow of a title Francis founded his pretensions to the dutchy, which he supported with such talents and valour, as placed him at last on the ducal throne. The virtues, as well as abilities, with which he governed, inducing his subjects to forget the defects in his title, he transmitted his dominions quietly to his son; from whom they descended to his grandson. He was murdered by his grand-uncle Ludovico, surnamed the Moor, who took possession of the dutchy; and his right to it was confirmed by the investiture of the emperor Maximilian in the year 1494.*
Louis XI., who took pleasure in depressing the princes of the blood, and who admired the political abilities of Francis Sforza, would not permit the duke of Orleans to take any step in prosecution of his right to the dutchy of Milan. Ludovico the Moor kept up such a close connection with Charles VIII. that, during the greater part of his reign, the claim of the family of Orleans continued to lie dormant. But when the crown of France devolved on Louis XII. duke of Orleans, he instantly asserted the rights of his family with the ardour which it was natural to expect, and marched at the head of a powerful army to support them. Ludovico Sforza, incapable of contending with such a rival, was stripped of all his dominions in the space of a few days. The king, clad in the ducal robes, entered Milan in triumph; and soon after, Ludovico, having been betrayed by the Swiss in his pay, was sent a prisoner into France, and shut up in the castle of Loches, where he lay unpitied during the remainder of his days. In consequence of one of the singular revolutions which occur so frequently in the history of the Milanese, his son Maximilian Sforza was placed on the ducal throne, of wbich he kept possession during the reign of Louis XII. (A. D. 1512.) But his successor Francis I. was too high-spirited and enterprising tamely to relinquish his title. As soon as he was seated upon the throne, he prepared to invade the Milanese ; and his right of succession to it appears, from this detail, to have been more natural and more just than that of any other competitor.
It is unnecessary to enter into any detail with respect to the form of government in Genoa, Parma, Modena, and the other inferior states of Italy. Their names, indeed, will often occur in the following history. But the power of these states themselves was so inconsiderable, that their fate depended little upon their own efforts; and the frequent revolutions which they underwent, were brought about rather by the operations of the princes who attacked or defended them, than by any thing peculiar in their internal constitution.
• Ripalta. Hist. Medinl. lib. vl. 654. ap. Struv. Corp. 1. 930. Du Mont Corps Diplom. tom. ill. p.